Archive | September, 2010

Criticism of Falun Gong

28 Sep

From:   Patsy Rahn []

Subject:   Criticism of Falun Gong

Since the Falun Gong is back in the news and looks like it will grow as an issue for some time to come, I’d like to suggest a few thoughts for consideration. I’ve been researching the FLG since June, mainly because it seemed the media knew so little about them and what they did know seemed to come from press releases from the Falun Gong. My concern was that the public be given fuller information about the group, rather than “the simple image of Falun Gong as an innocent victim of a communist police state” (thanks to Gerry Groot for that phrase).

There’s one aspect of the movement I’d like to address, and that is Li Hong Zhi’s and the group’s strong desire to be “officially” recognized by the Chinese government as “good”. At one point Li was a member of the official qi gong association and at some point he either quit or was expelled. When you read the FLG’s main book, Zhuan Falun, it is clear that Li thinks very poorly of all other qi gong teachers and groups. He tells his practitioners not to read any other books than his, and says you may be possessed by the demon animal spirit of the other qi gong masters if you do. I also read sometime back in June, that the reason the 10,000 practitioners showed up at Zhongnanhai on April 25, was that Li wanted his FLG group to be recognized as “special” and not just another qi gong group. Any hint of criticism is of great concern to Li and his followers. A woman is quoted in the LA Times recently as saying “I cannot sit by passively as the government slanders and vilifies our master, especially since our master gave me life.”

I’d like to suggest that the CCP is nervous about Li because they recognize him, they see in him a reversed mirror reflection of themselves; whereas you had Mao the materialist, you now have Li the spiritualist. I think it’s also possible that Li is the first sign of “revenge” for the Cultural Revolution that China has had to face. The Chinese people suffered traumatic treatment in the Cultural Revolution, everything was bad, everything was unsafe. To join Li’s FLG movement is to be told you are good, and that you are safe. Not only are you good, but FLG can change the entire degenerate world (not just the degenerated CCP) into a good world if only everyone would become a FLG practitioner. It’s as if the Chinese people are saying they want to be good, they want to be spiritual, and they want the CCP to officially recognize them as such. Their high sensitivity to criticism of Li or his philosophy seems based in a strong emotional desire; even a demand, to be recognized as good. Is it possible that the trauma of the Cultural Revolution has come back to haunt the CCP?

Best regards,

Patsy Rahn

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Congressman gets award from “evil cult”

28 Sep

United States Congressman Mike Doyle recently received the “Conscience and Courage award” from the “Global Mission to Rescue Persecuted Falun Gong Practitioners” reported The Tartan.

Falun Gong is banned in China as an “evil cult” due to its extremism, which includes medical neglect and suicide.

The group like other purported “cults” was founded, is defined and led by an absolute leader.

Li Hongzhi, Falun Gong’s charismatic founder, now lives in exile within the United States.

But the man behind Falun Gong has been exposed as both a bigot and racist. Hongzhi has made harsh and condemning statements publicly and in his writings regarding interracial marriage and gays.

The recently given Falun Gong award may flatter Doyle, but after other politicians learned about Hongzhi’s racism and intolerance they distanced themselves from the controversial leader.

Hongzhi and his followers have become quite adept at manipulating the media and public officials in well-orchestrated events and photo ops to promote the group and its agenda.

Doyle joins a growing list of unwitting dupes used by Falun Gong like pawns in Hongzhi’s never-ending effort for power and influence in China.

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Falun Gong and health

28 Sep

From:   Patsy Rahn []
Subject:   Falun Gong and health 
Daojiong Zha made a good point that “the collapse of the health care system and other social safety networks in China under reform” probably contributes to the popularity of Falun gong in China. Gerry Groot pointed out that the majority of FLG practitioners in China appear to be “both female and middle aged or elderly, i.e. likely to have health problems and be excluded…from the healthcare system…” While both of these points are part of the picture, there still remains the question, why Falun Gong? There is a plethora of qi gong groups in China and they all promise good health and healing. (It should be noted that Li Hong Zhi does not consider FLG a qi gong practice, but refers to it as a cultivation system). Why have these other qi gong practices not developed large followings of practitioners who are willing to die for their particular form of practice?
There are FLG practitioners in the US, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Germany and France. The Falun Gong considers their practice to be “the fastest growing spiritual practice in the world” The FLG identity is not limited to its Chinese experience, it is a world-wide defined movement. In China you have the largest number of practitioners and they are in conflict with the government, creating a tense situation filled with intense emotion, creating a “cause” charged with affect.
One of the interesting aspects of the FLG movement is that it has moved outside of China. It’s probably too early to understand the dynamics behind this movement, but I’d like to point out some elements in the “testimonials” of non-Chinese FLG practitioners, as found posted on the FLG website.
Most (non-Chinese) practitioners seem to be attracted to it, not as a health care system primarily, but as an answer to life’s bigger questions, and something that will make their life better. There is often a sense of religious awe and an experience of epiphany: when one eight year old first listened to Li Hong Zhi on tape “tears couldn’t stop running”; when a man named Jeremiah had first been introduced to FLG, within hours he had visions of lights and thousands of Buddha’s; when a 43 year old woman named Lisa saw Li at an LA sharing conference and Li “demonstrated the Large Hand Sign, my body was overcome…it seems my inner being understood this high-level language, and I realized my destiny”; and when the woman who owns a public relations and marketing business and works for Li in New York, first saw Li, she says she “experienced an awesome light radiating from him…everything began to melt into this light, clouds of light and brightness shone all around me…I felt such an incredible unconditional love that I had never felt before…I knew the moment I saw him, this was the miracle that I had been searching for..”
It may be important to keep a fuller picture of the FLG movement in mind, even as we try to understand the implications for China.
The Falun Gong website lists websites in: Australia, Canada, US (62 sites), China (HK and Taiwan), “Europe”, Denmark, U.K., Sweden, Austria and Germany, Israel, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and Russia.

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Clarity on China

14 Sep

Re: “Ignatieff’s China blunder,” Editorial, July 8.

You have made statements that are so outrageous they require a response. You state: “Falun Gong practitioners and Christians are jailed and have their organs harvested for profit . . .”

This is an easily refuted Internet myth. I just returned from China, where I teach at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics. A number of my students are openly Christian and proud of it. They are not in jail, they have not had their organs removed, and they are active in student and community social life.

My wife (Chinese) is a Christian and many of our acquaintances in China are also Christians, openly attending church every Sunday and vespers on Wednesday.

None of them has been persecuted.

If the Herald can document a single case of a Christian losing his freedom and losing an organ because of his religion, I’ll eat these words at Olympic Park at noon.

You state: “Self-determination is not allowed for territories like Tibet considered under the jurisdiction of Beijing.” Every province, autonomous region and municipal government in China is “under the jurisdiction of Beijing.”

Tibet has been part of China, under the emperor’s jurisdiction for over 700 years. Until the early 1950s, it was mainly controlled by seven families. The rest of the population were either serfs or slaves. Literacy rates hovered around five per cent. It is now an autonomous region. Between 1953 and today, with a high degree of autonomy, literacy has risen to over 65 per cent.

I encourage the Herald to get its facts straight before making such prejudicial and inaccurate statements.

Thomas R. Bate,

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Song & dance spectacular not exactly what it seems

14 Sep

Anyone curious about what a genuine piece of Chinese-style propaganda looks like needn’t look any further than “Shen Yun,” the heavily promoted song-and-dance spectacle that made its first local appearance Thursday night in Shea’s Performing Arts Center.

For the past month, ads fliers, posters, videos and manned kiosks at local malls proclaimed “Shen Yun” to be a production of surpassing elegance and beauty, a ranging collection of song, dance and story so spellbinding and meticulously produced that it has literally left millions “in awe.” The show’s promotional material depicts audience members staring agog and misty-eyed at “Shen Yun” productions in some of the world’s biggest opera and music halls. The material promises a tear-wrenching experience of sensory overload that also manages to provide valuable modern interpretations of China’s wondrous ancient traditions.

Sounds pretty awesome, right?

I mean, who but the hardest- hearted cynic wouldn’t want to surrender himself to all those head-spinning acrobatic moves, those eye-popping costumes and 3-Dvisual effects?

But this show –or rather its mammoth and insidious promotional machine –has left me in awe for a very different reason. The production, far from being a straightforward revue of Chinese dance, music and storytelling, is in fact a slick piece of propaganda pushing the viewpoint of Falun Gong, a spiritual group that has been persecuted by the Chinese government since the late 1990s. It is produced by New Tang Dynasty Television, a New York City-based group founded by Falun Gong followers.

“The Falun Gong stories in Shen Yun Performing Arts provide an important window into the realities of modern-day China and portray the traditional soul of Chinese people who are today facing unjust adversity,” wrote YuKun Lu, whose company New Era Cultural Experience presented the Buffalo performance, inane-mail to The News. “They are stories of human spirit and human courage, and they are stories worth telling.”

All true. But the problem with “Shen Yun” is not its endorsement of a specific religious and political viewpoint, nor that its production numbers portraying the oppressive tactics of the Chinese government have taken some audience members by surprise. In that respect, “Shen Yun” is laudable in its effort to bring human rights abuses perpetrated by the Chinese government to the attention of the American public.

The problem lies in the marketing of the production, which mentions absolutely nothing about the unique religious and political movement that drives the show, and without which the show would never have been conceived. In this way, the promoters and creators of “Shen Yun,” who have picked up a reputation for misrepresentation and deception over the years, have adopted the questionable propagandist tactics of the very government they criticize in their productions. My repeated requests to interview a member of the company, or anyone associated with the production, were declined – a further indication of the group’s tight message control.

These techniques include a “newspaper,” The Epoch Times, which is little more than a mouthpiece for Falun Gong. The Buffalo edition of the publication contains nothing but gleamingly positive coverage of “Shen Yun.” Look up “Shen Yun” in Google News and most of what comes back are articles from various international editions of the so-called newspaper extolling the virtues of the company. This shock-and-awe onslaught of positive articles is presumably meant to drown out investigative pieces about the group that have appeared in reputable news sources such as The New York Times, the Toronto Star and The Guardian, whose dance critic called a 2008 “Shen Yun” production “all too weird a mix of propaganda and bling.”

Perhaps the creators of “Shen Yun” are so put off by the traumatic experiences of their past that they think the mere mention of Falun Gong will send potential audience members running. But their solution, far from engaging in an honest conversation with the public about the spiritual movement they seek to promote, is to wait until the audience is already in the seats to clue them in to the production’s spiritual and political agenda.

If the Chinese expatriates of Falun Gong, who have been so mistreated at the hands of their former government, want to share their worthy and fascinating story with a broad international audience, the duplicitous techniques of propaganda are not the way to go.

A more daring and effective approach might be simply to tell the truth.

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Raelians not the only “cult” to con the media

14 Sep

In an ongoing analysis redacting events that lead to the Raelians successfully creating a promotional bonanza last month, many pundits have been critical of how easily the “cult” manipulated the media for puff pieces and featured coverage.

But the Raelians are not the only “cult” that seems to be good at conning the press.

Witness the willingness of journalists to frequently provide a pulpit for the Falun Gong followers of Li Hongzhi, from which they preach their version of events in China and allegations of “persecution.”

Recent coverage included a sympathetic look at the group’s ongoing vigil near the New York City Chinese Consulate, reports North

However, this report like so many others does not mention Hongzhi’s racist teachings and his penchant for condemning gays. The Falun Gong leader teaches that interracial marriage is evil and that homosexuals are an abomination.

But North simply says, “the movement focuses on perfecting individual moral character by reflecting on truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance.”

How does racism and bigotry perfect “moral character” or reflect “compassion” or “forbearance”?

And what about Hongzhi’s writings touting his supernatural powers, special revelations and claims about alien beings from outer space? Is this the “truthfulness” the reporter is referring to?

According to this recent article Falun Gong is simply, “a spiritual movement based on traditional Chinese ‘qigong’ meditation exercises.”

But how do space aliens fit within “traditional Chinese ‘qigong'”?

Never mind.

Most reports about the Raelians did include the bizarre beliefs held by that group. But for some reason many within the media either don’t research Falun Gong in-depth, or simply refuse to report about the group’s strange claims.

North says that Hongzhi started Falun Gong “in part as a response to a lack of medical care in China.”

But Hongzhi’s “response” was to teach his followers that the practice of Falun Gong would somehow affect their physical health and/or ailments. This led many to reject “medical care,” which often led to death.

When the Chinese government responded to Falun Gong largely as a public health hazard, Hongzhi organized a mass protest, an unsettling spectacle in orderly China.

Since that time the Falun Gong leader has played the media to promote his supposed role as a “victim.” And the NYC vigils recently reported are part of carefully coordinated effort, managed through a network of well-organized Hongzhi operatives.

The Raelians claim a global membership of 55,000, though experts estimate their number is actually closer to 5,000.

In similar fashion Falun Gong makes unsupported claims that they have “millions” of members. And the press often reports this with little if any critical balance.

What are the facts about Falun Gong?

It seems that the group called an “evil cult” in China, is led by a man much like Rael, who cynically manipulates both his followers and the media for his own purposes.

And though Hongzhi’s devotees may be arrested and/or jailed, their leader lives comfortably tucked away in “exile.”

Isn’t it time for pundits to scrutinize this “cult” leader and his brand of self-promotion? It seems Hongzhi’s media hype deserves the same critical analysis offered up concerning coverage of the Raelians and their claims.

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Falun Gong and information on Asia

7 Sep
I recently received an e-mail msg. containing links to a series of articles (some of which are historical in nature) critical of the Chinese Communist Party. For those interested the main link was:

I am interested in whether the e-mail I received represents an individual initiative, or whether it was part of a more coordinated campaign to publicize the series to academics at other institutions. Have others received similar messages?
The newspaper/website that these articles came out in is called The Epoch Times in English (Chinese: Da Ji Yuan). It describes itself as a New York-based, privately operated “independent voice” whose strength is the coverage of China. I believe it is widely understood to be a Falun Gong organ. Can anyone comment on the degree to which this association affects the reliability of and/or nature of the bias of information published there?

I have my general opinion about this, but I am interested in specific cases of bias or accuracy.

After some very cursory web-checking on the Epoch Times, I noted that its articles on China are increasingly picked up by English-language “mainstream” media. For example, the web-sites of CNN, Bloomberg, the Economist and Radio Free Asia all have carried articles first published there. To the degree that there is a Falun Gong slant to such information, it would appear that operating the Epoch Times has proved a savvy investment. Clearly they are getting their message out.
I also found indications that the Falun Gong maintains several other organizations involved in generating and mediating knowledge about Asia. One is called the Association for Asian Research (AFAR), and one is called the Washington China Review. The first seems targeted at academics and the second at Washington lobbying. Ownership in both cases is somewhat obscure, but again my impression is that they are Falun Gong organs. If I am wrong about this, or anyone can shed further light on these organizations, please inform the list.

I don’t suggest that all information associated with organizations operated by the Falun Gong should be automatically dismissed as polemical, but I do think that all scholars should at least be aware of such connections and should approach such information critically. I am furthermore interested in what others think of this phenomenon. After all, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church established the Washington Times, and (at least in some circles) it is accepted as a legitimate and reliable news organ.

Should the Falun Gong organs be seen in a similar light, or is there something that distinguishes their approach to the production of knowledge about Asia?

Richard Belsky
Department of History
Hunter College of the
City University of New York

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